South Jersey Times Editorial Board writes
So far, so good, with plans for New Jersey’s primary elections, now scheduled for July 7.
Gov. Phil Murphy has issued guidelines for what some are calling a “hybrid” election, in which vote-by-mail options will be expanded and in-person voting will be available on a limited basis. Given the extreme circumstances, this is the best solution that participation advocates could hope for.
Delaying what would have been a normal June 2 election was a no-brainer. With the limited progress in fighting COVID-19 contagion the state has made thus far, in-person balloting two weeks from now would still risk health disaster for voters, poll workers, security personnel and voting-booth handlers.
Granted, elections in the middle of summer are never ideal. Voters’ attention, if not their physical presence, is focused elsewhere. But the midsummer tradition of New Jerseyans in far-flung locations has already been disrupted by safety concerns over travel, if not by economic realities. More people will be close to home this July.
While presidential nominations have seemingly been decided, Democrats, at least, face a spirited race between two high-profile candidates wishing to kick Democrat-turned-Republican Jeff Van Drew out of his 2nd District South Jersey congressional seat. The ubiquitous “Too soon?” question that follows depressing news like a pandemic has already been answered “No” by Democrat competitors Brigid Harrison and Amy Kennedy. The gloves are off, even if the masks are still on.
That race and others make it important to have multiple voting options so that no group feels disenfranchised. As the ACLU-New Jersey put it a Monday press release, “Both robust vote-by-mail and in-person voting are necessary so that residents don’t have to choose between their health and their right to vote.” The hard-to-please civil liberties organization praised Murphy’s decision, as did the League of Women Voters of New Jersey and the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
There will be challenges, mostly affecting in-person voters used to showing up at a longtime polling place. Under the governor’s executive order, some municipalities may have only a single day-of-election polling place open.
On the vote-by-mail end, there’s liable to be some confusion, since mail-in ballots will be sent, without need for an application, to all registered Republicans and Democrats. Unaffiliated voters who wish to vote in the primary still must apply for a ballot. State election officials and county clerks need to ensure that these mailings are not mistaken for sample ballots, which many voters routinely toss in the trash.
Some voters who received these materials might also turn up at polling places. Will they all be treated as “provisional” voters even if they haven’t sent the mail-in forms back? If there’s any way to reconcile returned mail-in ballots with in-person voter rolls, this election is the time to do it.
That said, Murphy’s advice that anyone who has the ability to vote by mail should use that option is spot-on. It’s best for public safety, and will preserve limited polling places for those with certain disabilities, those who lack a consistent home address, and those with language-barrier issues.
On July 7, things should go even more smoothly with “hybrid” balloting. State and local officials can only do so much, however, to publicize out-of-the-ordinary changes. At some point, it will be up to individual voters to check the location of their polling place and read mail-in materials carefully.
To read the full article, click here